Sunday, 21 September 2014

Nothing from Anglesey today

The Safari had a mixed day today starting with a few moths. It was the coolest night for a good while although still 10C at 08.00 there were a few moths inside including a nice Copper Underwing sp, our first Silver Y of the year was beginning to think one of these common things wouldn't turn up this year despite loads of very interesting migrant moths turning up all over the country.
In one of the eggboxes was THE tiniest of moths, we very nearly overlooked it and then almost dismissed it as 'just' a fly. But it turned out to be a new  species for us - hardly surprising!!! - Blastodacna hellerella.
We really like these tiny ones - why do they need to be so well patterned and/or coloured it's not as if they're easy to spot in the first place.
After the usual Sunday morning faffing about we decided to go to the nature reserve but Frank wasn't walking too well so we loitered wondering where to go instead when we got a text from Young Un AB requesting the loan of our stealth-cam due to animal 'incidents' in his garden so off we went.
The traffic was beyond humungous, we hadn't twigged that the airshow the other side of the river would be using our airport as their base and with the only two flying Avro Lancasters in town along with assorted Hurricanes, Spitfires, Typhoons and even the Vulcan everyone and his uncle was trying to get to a good vantage point at either end of the runway - right between Base Camp and AB's gaff.
The stealth-cam was duly delivered and we sat in the warm sunshine in the garden watching the bird feeders and butterflies on the Buddleia with AB and Eh-up muvver - Frank fell asleep but was woken when we dashed upstairs to his landing window when we heard the Lancasters fire up their eight Merlin engines.
Here's the best we could do from a mile away through the very wobbly heat haze...we've seen plenty better on Twitter and Facebook already.
This one made the most noise on take off - a vertical climb to how high??? Shame we could only get it coming back in to land - not bad for a 'garden tick'.
Other stuff flying around the garden were
So there you have it a rather different day to what we were expecting when we got  out of bed this morning.
Where to next? A trip to the north with ace photographer BD tomorrow
In the meantime let us know who's making all the thunderous noise in your outback.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Tales from Ynys Mon

The Safari has had a very pleasant week away with Wifey and Frank on the beautiful Welsh island of Anglesey renowned for its majority of Welsh speakers and its varied coastline which has wild cliffs and tiny coves as well as wide sandy beaches to explore. A place we've not been to for about 17 years and used to holiday there when a small kiddy with the family maybe 45 and more years ago.
At Penmon Head overlooking Puffin Island where there are now Puffins breeding again (although gone at this time of year) after the eradication of the Brown Rats that have been on there for several centuries.
We did see mammals, a Grey Seal, possibly two and at least three Bottlenose Dolphins probably interesting the the Sea Bass or whatever they were feeding on, a fisherman went home with a whopper for his tea and a big smile on his face, about 30 inches long - the fish not his smile.
Our cottage (very nicely appointed with a huge sun lounge and a sea view) was close to the beach at Lligwy where Frank enjoyed sloshing around in the pools
and there is a cliff top walk to the nearby town of Moelfre.
Offshore there is an anchorage for large ships waiting to get into the docks at Liverpool, their draught is so large that they have to time their arrival to coincide with the highest tides
This is the Spike all 249m x 44m and 'only' 11.9m draught - more than 30 feet below the waterline no wonder they need the high tide to get into the river!
With an unusual strong and persistent easterly wind developing 'our' beach became a bit uncomfortable to sit on for long so we had to find somewhere more sheltered...bring on Porth Eilean sheltered by the rocky promentary of Point Lynas
A few rockpools were here and we've got a bit of video for you later in the week once we've edited the best bits.
The west side of the island hosts a smaller island, Holy Island, which is home to the RSPB cliffs reserve at South Stack and yet another lighthouse
There was no chance of Frank getting anywhere near the steps down to the lighthouse so we visited the watch tower at the top of the cliff to view the seabird nesting cliffs
The seabirds have gone but there was a Chough (162) was still poking about in the Sea Campion looking for grubs n stuff.
Shoulda been there last week or the week before when the cliff top vegetation woulda been stunning.
 We also visited Maltreath Sands, we were last here 20 years ago and saw our first British Little Egret on a dreadfully wet and windy day, a Pectoral Sandpiper was also there that day. No Pec Sand today although the weather was far far better a beautiful warm proper summer's day! We saw this wader on the mud where all those years ago the 'Yank' had been - can you tell what it is?
Of course you do!
Rather larger than a Pec Sand!
The Little Egret was still there, maybe not the same one and there were five others around the estuary
A Kingfisher put in an appearance and just about the first bird we saw was a Curlew Sandpiper (163) hiding behind a small flockette of Redshanks, they're everywhere at the moment we even noticed today one was seen where we went to look for them locally just before we went away.
The light was horrid but after we'd walked down the old railway line to view the muddy 'inland' areas and come back it was even worse but we did find another Curlew Sand.
Cracking weather we had - not a drop of rain; that hasn't happened on any of our hols for a long time!!!
So there's a snippet of what we got up to last week, there's plenty more to come for later too.
Where to next? If won't be Anglesey but it could be somewhere much nearer with a further report on the Welsh isle depending on how much we find close to home to tell you about.
In the meantime let us know whose carrying the biggest draught in your outback.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Another super summery day

The Safari is enjoying this bit of an Indian summer. We've had stuff to do indoors but managed a bit of a mooch round the garden in the afternoon and then Frank took us to Magpie Wood for half an hour.
Hoverfly having a chill in the morning sun - darned phone focused past it on the brickwork - dohhh
Autumn colour is beginning to form
Field Scabious continues to provide late summer nectar for bees and hoverflies
It pays to watch where you're going!
Mystery mud lined nest - should be Blackbird but don't they line with grass, has it washed/blown out?
Old man's beard - don't you just love the old 'country' manes of stuff
Mystery ornamental plant - from a bulb we think but does anyone have a name?
Bird sown Dog Rose hips
Very few Apples on the tree this year and they all look like this - a tad unappetizing wouldn't you say?
Out on the field by Magpie Wood we always look for fungi at this time of year and found this one lurking under the edge of the hedge
Think they're great when they've gone past their best and have started to decay like this one - great patterns and shapes from all that gooey mush - brilliant.
So there you have it just a few short minutes out on safari and we've found a load of interesting seasonal stuff for you - ain't nature brill - Always something to see and learn everyday!
Where to next? Not sure about tomorrow, might have a surprise for you all.
In the meantime let us know who's going all gooey in your outback.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Tide's up!

The Safari hi-tailed it down to the southern estuary after work yesterday in the hope of spotting the two Scaup that had been seen earlier in the day. We were far too late, the tide had dropped a long way and the light was atrcoious glaring off the wet sand/mud. The birds had probaly drifted down the river on the ebbing tide, so that was a dip.
Today we offered photographer BD a lift down the other estuary where a nice selection of scarcer waders have been seen over the last few days. Sadly he was down with lurgy and unable to join us. 
A wander along the saltmarsh path gave us a the last of the Sea Asters, a couple of weeks ago the marsh would have had a beautiful violet flush from the myriad of flowers.
We weren't the om;y birder at the appointed place and MF was happy to tell us how he'd seen the quarry birds yesterday. Not long later the estuary expert LGB joined us - must have been something good out there then!
The tide hadn't started to rise yet and there was acres of mud to scan and lots of hidden creeks for any number of birdies to hide in - but with the tide on the rise the acres of mud would soon disappear and the creeks would fill flushing out their feathered treasures.
Looking the other way was somewhat trickier!
A flock of about 20 Black Tailed Godwits were working the top of the mud but there was little else on view other than scattered Curlews. Then a small flock of Dunlin flew past us and whirled round - the call went up Curlew Sandpiper...but did we see it? We thought so at the time but looking back in our mind's eye we'd have liked a much more obvious view of the white rump to be certain so we've not included it on our year list challenge...have to go back! They flock picked up some others from somewhere and about two dozen flew off downstream over our heads.
The water's continued to rise and Redshanks became more agitated and then we heard a Greenshank (161) calling, it continued to call continuously most of the time we were there. 
We scanned and scanned but there was no further sign of the Dunlin flock. Eventually the waters rose to start filling the gully in front of us first flushing off the Heron, then the Black Tailed Godwit and finally the Little Egret which was shoved off it's feeding area by a particularly fierce tidal bore.
Within minutes of these pics being taken the gully was full and the island of mud in front of us gone, time to retrace our steps a few yards to have a look at the last bit of mud on our side if the river, just two Dunlins and a few Redshanks - no sign of the Little Stint.
We ended with a ten minute scan of the disappearing mud on the far side of the river but couldn't find anything other than the usual common species.
OK so one out of three (four if you count yesterday's dipped Scaup) isn't a great result and hasn't done us any favours in our year list but it was a lovely couple of hours on the river. Peaceful, no sounds apart from the piping calls of the waders and the lapping of the waters becoming a noisy race warm sun no wind to speak of and good company - do you really need anything more in life? well maybe a pint or two of good beer eh.
Where to next? Hmm not sure about tomorrow, possibly some early morning cetacean watching, always provided we can find one.
In the meantime let us know what was hiding itself very effectively in your outback.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Another jaunt into south west Wales

The Safari hasn't had a chance to get out today but as luck would have it our Extreme Photographer sent some pics through from a recent exploratory adventure. He's been able to get out n about more recently now he's settled in down in Pembrokeshire and is starting to discover the local hotspots as well as some quieter little visited backwaters that he says could well produce the goods like this Common Lizard did on a rock in a random field.
Where to next? Not sure what might happen tomorrow, hopefully we'll be able to get out onto Patch 2 for a shuffy.
In the meantime let us know who's basking in the sunshine in your outback

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Heavy duty digging

The Safari had a Sunday with a bit of a difference, we played host to a gang of teenagers. Seven of them came in a mini-bus to do a bit of gardening for us prepping up a little used area to make it safer for children and getting it ready for wildflower sowing and bog garden planting. Sadly we don't have a before pic and we weren't allowed to take pics of the crew while they were working.
The garden was originally a demonstration 'Carbon Neural' garden but the pond had been damaged by vandals and didn't hold much water but was still a 'falling' hazard for youngsters so the gates were never opened.
Our kids today came totally ill-dressed for gardening, one of the girls was in a going out/party type  dress but it was she who wielded the lump hammer to break off the WD40 smothered but still unopenable locks - the boys' efforts were puny.
Once in spades, forks and a mattock were used with great enthusiasm and effect. The idea was to reprofile the rear bank using the excess soil to fill the defunct pond - a simple task but there was a lot of pond to fill!
Some five hot hours later the task was just about finished. Stronger wire cutters would have moved the job on faster as would a larger workforce, we were expecting 14 only seven turned up but for inexperienced heavy duty gardening tool users they moved heaven and earth to complete the job - well about three tons of earth, not sure how much heaven!
As soon as we'd moved away once finished a Robin hopped down for a poke about to see if we'd unearathed any grubs for him - great to see.
The eagle-eyed amongst you will spot a few blue flecks of Meadow Cranesbill flowers, they are brill for bees. The idea is to plant some of the usual annual wildflower mixture on the bank behind the seat then plant some perennials in there too to attract moths, butterflies and bees amongst other insects for the kiddies to discover. The white area is crushed Cockles, so their limey conditions should be good for some low growing specialist plants.
The gang discovered three 7-spot Ladybirds, about the same number as we've seen all year except for the vast numbers on the seawall last April. Across the green we saw a Common Blue, Speckled Wood and a Small White butterflies. In-between all the huffing and puffing we heard our first Goldcrest (P2 # 69) and Chiffchaff (P2 #70) for the work's garden this year.
A great day watching youngsters work hard - we can't do it anymore, only 'supervise'! Don't let anyone tell you the youth of today are no good, there were seven here today who were very very good indeed and their efforts will be much appreciated by many in the months to come. Those last awful Phormiums at the back will have to go though - we can't abide the useless things.
Where to next? A busy day tomorrow with a class of kids learning about all the different Ice Age deposited rocks on the beach in the afternoon.
Let us know who's been wielding the hardware in your outback.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Where does the time go?

The Safari wasn't expecting to find water in the mothy again...yes it drizzled overnight! There wasn't mush inside, a small number of Large Yellow Underwings and a couple each of Garden Carpets and Light Brown Apple Moths. Here's a Garden Carpet milliseconds before take off....we hadn't cooled it long enough in the fridge!
A lazy morning ensued but Wifey had to go to work and she could take Frank so we had the option of staying in following the youngsters #VisionforNature conference on Twitter or go out for a mooch. The conference would have fascinating but when faced with a choice of in or out, out almost always wins hands down and so it was today and out we went to the nature reserve.
But then distaster happened. Only yards through the gate we stopped to admire a patch of Tufted Vetch at the side of the path and went to take a pic 'Internal memory full - please insert card' Drat drat and double drat the SD card was still in the puter after downloading the above moth pic, ah well we'll use the phone...oh no we wont a fumble through the multitude of pockets told us we'd left that back at Base Camp too.
What to do now we were scuppered? Thank goodness we'd brought a notebook so we made good use of that and will have to describe our day in words which you will have to translate into images in your imagination - we believe it's called story telling...Always assuming we can read our handwriting!
It was warm but overcast with a light breeze from the north that gently rustled the drying end of summer leaves. Speckled Wood butterflies danced in the lee of the bushes one alighting briefly on a cluster of shiny black Elderberries.
Over the still distant mere a soaring Buzzard spooked a large number of Woodpigeons; in the intervening wet meadow patches of bright blue revealed late flowering Meadow Cranesbills and the locations of the now dry ponds were punctuated by the spikes of Purple Loosestrife.
The leaves of the White Poplar trees shimmered like silver when the wind caught them but the flat brown crowns of the long gone over patch of Hogweed stood tall and firm.
Several Common Carder Bees worked the large meadow at the nature resservewhich is a little past its best now, all that is still in flower and providing essential late nectar was plenty of Hoary Ragwort and scattered heads of Red Clover. It looked like there'd been a splendid show of Black Knapweed (which is purple!) and Tufted Vetch a couple of short weeks ago. Hawthorn bushes in the adjacent scrub were bedecked with red berries, these won't be flailed to within an inch of their lives like most of their farmland cousins And we wonder why there's no farmland birds - HINT leave the flail in the shed and don't destroy all the winter shelter and food supply, that'd help many species and not just birds!
From the scrub, where the Apple scrumpers have already started making inroads stealing the winter thrushes winter food a Goldcrest called and a Whitethroat churred. Two Woodpigeons clattered out from the Elder bush above us making us jump. Apart from clattering Woodpigeons it was exceptionally peaceful barely any human noise pollution for a change.
Sitting on our friend's memorial bench we scanned the water for anything other than Coots (92 from our limited viewpoint) or gulls wishing we were still able to grab some tools and clear some of the summer's growth in from of the platform - we're sure there's a Spotted Crake in there somewhere. Would be about time, don't think there's been one on the nature reserve since 1996 - long overdue then! And come on Otters, where ARE you???
A Peregrine (MMLNR #86) cruised north over the far fields to the east leaving a trail of panicked flocks of pigeons in its wake, down in front of us Small White, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral and Speckled Wood butterflies flitted about the flowers and another Goldcrest was heard nearby - all beautifully idyllic.
A brief gap in the clouds brought out the sun and the temperature rose a couple of degrees bringing out the first dragonflies of the day...Migrant Hawkers. Sneaking slightly off-piste we gently lifted the refugium (is that a word?), it had to be lifted carefully as it's covered in thorny trailing branches of Brambles and wild Roses. Beneath it the only thing that moved was a small Great Crested Newt, one from last year probably - RESULT! Which reminds us we don't think ew've had a reminder about renewing our licence from Natural England yet this year - hope we've not been 'illegal'! Although unseen ther was plenty of evidence of Short Tailed Field Voles being under there all summer long with grass nests and lots of runs going this way and that.
Another clattering Woodpigeon spooked us but generally the birds were very quiet asyou would expect in the middle of the day, perhaps we should really have been here in the drizzly dawn instead of faffing round with soggy moths. While contemplating what should or couldn't have been a small Toad struggled through the vegetation on the rough track in front of our size 9s.
By now we must have got used to the Woodpigeons as they sped noisily from their leafy hiding places as we walked below and watched a couple of Common Darters flitting along the path to the hide. At the hide a bizarre sight met our eyes - not that we could see much since the reed needs to die back a bit before there's a view from the windows - but one of the Council's 'Hire Bikes' was taking a swim 'Heath' is its name - we'll have to report that to the relevant people tomorrow. It'll need a grappling iron to get it out and a lot of TLC to get it back on the road. What kind of dough-brained numpty does a thing like that???
The kind that wouldn't notice or appreciate the amazing Brown Hawker flying around the little clearing in the reeds they'd unknowingly created probably.
We remember in the early days of the reserve that was a bit of a hoo-hah about Ground Elder, well one of the main patches has now been almost totally succeeded by the land form of Amphibeous Bistort and it won't be long before that in turn is lost to willowherbs, Nettles, Bindweed and Brambles. The other much larger patch is still going strong but it hasn't spread as was feared and other species have begun to appear amongst it although to a lesser extent than the first patch.
A hidden Blackcap scolded us from a dense Hawthorn, next door was an Elderberry bush showing gorgeous pinky autumnal hues. Talking of pink why oh why don't we have breeding Bullfinches in the extensive fruit scrub here and will we get any on passage this autumn?
The purple tops of the reeds waved in the breeze but no sound came from within bar their rustling leaves until a loud burst of song from a Cetti's Warbler set off a Chiffchaff and Wren calling. Further on back in the scrub a mixed party of tits included many Long Tailed Tits working their way along the hedge at the back of the drier reedy area where we once put out an experiment to see if Harvest Mice were present or not. we were unsuccessful but that doesn't mean to say there weren't/aren't any - more research needed we think. A Chiffchaff sang briefly from within the flock and a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over. what wasn't so good to see was an Elderberry bush showing its bright green leaves in the middle of the reedbed.
The reedbed has been partitioned into blocks and in a few years time all will have been dragged out on a rotation, this bit needs to be rotated first!
Two Cetti's Warblers sang briefly at each other and an Emperor dragonfly flew past while we were coming to terms with the errant Elderberry.
Retracing our steps the Emperor had found a partner and whipped over the path and down the embankment in tandem. It's not that long since Emperors were first recorded here, about 20 years ago or thereabouts. Underfoot a huge Black Slug was making bee-line for a discarded beer can. 
Back in the scrub an anxious looking Robin peered at us through the twigs of a large Willow tree stretching up on tippy-toe to get a better look at us, now why couldn't it have been a Redstart? Ah well you can't have em all!
Autumn fungi weren't much in evidence apart from a small patch of well past their best Common Inkcaps and a couple of Shaggy Inkcaps just beyond their eating best. A Blackbird clucked as we cast an eye over the wildflower area in front of us with only Yarrow and a few Bird's Foot Trefoil flowers still going strong. It does look as though it's been well colourful this summer and there's little grass so the Yellow Rattle must be doing its job. In fact there's might not be enough grass for the later flowering and once common Red Bartsia. There used to be some Biting Stonecrop in this area but we couldn't find any sign of it. We used to give the school kids a tiny bit to taste and wait for their reaction when the pepperiness hit them. The area has 'overgrown' (how we hate that expression) but we were pleased to find some decent sized patches of Hare's Foot Clover, so all is not lost to atmospheric nitrogen deposition - a really hard thing to counteract/mitigate against.
Standing chatting to PL for a while there was a little flock of warblers flitting about the scrub beyond us, at least a few Whitethroats and a male Blackcap but there could have been others. He is in the very enviable position of getting what we believe to be the first ever pics of a Brimstone butterfly at  the nature reserve. Excellent stuff.
We took a slightly different path back taking us past the lovely soft pinks of the Soapwort patch. Looking over the wetland there was a distinct lack of Whinchats, a choice spot for them in spring so there's no harm looking in the autumn especially as several have been seen locally in rrecent days.
Almost back at the Land Rover we passed a group of young ladies out for a walk with their dog when one called out "You're that man, aren't you, I recognise you from Yr've only got nine fingers" Yes that's us, but now we only have six fingers (and  two thumbs). We stayed for a quick chat and were encouraged to hear they claimed to have remembered all we'd shown them a few years ago when they were still in Primary school.
It was now time to get some lunch...when we got back to the Land Rover the clock showed we'd been out nearly five hours, and only only walked less than two miles...even slower than Fluffy Ma n Da's Tortoise.
What a place, so much to enjoy and we've only noted a fraction of what we saw today.
There's big excitement ahead and you'll all have the opportunity to join in with a volunteer group to help make this reserve even more special. All talents will be welcome not just muscley practical conservation work although we've no doubt there'll be plenty of that required too.
Us conservation folks really need to engage with more people and use feelings, the emotions of place, its intrinsic value, its specialness and not just the science and it's dry facts and figures if wild areas like this are to be valued. One chap out for a wander with his wife and dog we spoke to summed it up nicely...over there is Blackpool, waving his arm in the general direction of the tower,  and here just a mile away is the Serengeti - we knew exactly what he meant!
Where to next? A Sunday at work tomorrow doing a bit of wildlife gardening with a gang  of teenagers - hope they've got plenty of muscles!
In the meantime let us know what couldn't be photographed in your outback